The Kelliest of Kelly Teams

Posted: June 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 246 Comments »

This is Chip Kelly’s third year in the NFL. He’s been working on the roster since he was hired, and still has more work to do. Every year he’s out there trying to find his kind of guys. Talent isn’t enough. Being a good guy isn’t enough. He’s looking for the right kind of player. Kelly wants talent, character, brains, competitive spirit, drive, determination, toughness and discipline from his players.

I think the 2015 Eagles are the most talented roster that Kelly has had to work with, but it is also the most Kelly-like roster of his tenure.

In my recent PE.com column, I wrote this.

This team feels like Chip Kelly’s kind of players based on what they say and how they act off the field.DeMarco Murray got insulted by a former teammate and responded by wishing the guy well. Sam Bradford was recently asked whether he is comfortable playing on a one-year deal. He responded that he doesn’t worry about things he can’t control. Agholor talked about wanting to work like a peasant. These are not your standard NFL player answers.

Think about Murray responding to Joseph Randle the way he did compared to Shady going on Twitter and asking people to harass the mother of his child. Or even his public feuds with Osi Umenyiora.

Think about Bradford’s comments vs Michael Vick complaining that he shouldn’t have to compete for the QB job back in the spring of 2013. Think about some of the comments Matt Barkley has had, where you can sense his utter frustration at the fact he’s not the Eagles starting QB.

Think about Agholor’s comments vs DeSean Jackson complaining about the fact he wasn’t at the top of the depth chart back in the spring of 2013. Or Riley Cooper’s incident.

Kelly is slowly but surely loading up the roster with his guys.

While this sounds great, as I talked about in the piece, the key is for the players to go out and play well.

* * * * *

Peter King believes in the Eagles enough to have them ranked 7th in his power rankings.

They are the top NFC East team. Dallas is down at 13th.

7. Philadelphia (10-6). Mike Trout says: In Chip We Trust. For the Eagles to be seventh in the NFL, he’s going to have to say: In Sam Bradford We Trust.

13. Dallas (12-4). I keep reading how many great pieces the Cowboys have added to their defense. I don’t see it. But they’re going to win a bunch of 33-27 games, so there’s hope.

That’s cool.

But King has Baltimore #1 and Minnesota #6. That’s…odd.

As to our other beloved NFC East teams…

22. New York Giants (6-10). Tell me Eli Manning stays protected, and tell me the second act of Steve Spagnuolo can come close to matching the first, and I’ll have more faith in the Giants to be a playoff team.

25. Washington (4-12). I’d love to muster up enthusiasm for Jay Gruden, a good man and a good coach. But I can’t get his RGIII negativity out of my head from last season. Only Robert Griffin III can do that—for both of us.

This is all based on paper and expectations. As I covered in my PE.com piece, perception can be very different from reality. Teams go up and down every year when good players decline or unknown guys shine. You just don’t know what you’ve really got until you hit the field and see them play.

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What’s Going on at OG?

Posted: May 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 216 Comments »

Things have been awkward between Evan Mathis and the Eagles for about a year. He wants more money. The Eagles don’t feel he’s worth it.

Mathis was an afterthought when the Eagles signed him in July of 2011. He was signed to be the #3 OG (starters were Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins). Mathis was the backup LG in the first preseason game. Then he moved to backup RT for a game and back to the LG spot. Eventually Herremans was moved to RT (to replace Winston Justice/Austin Howard/Ryan Harris/King Dunlap). When that happened, Mathis took over at LG and he’s been there ever since.

Mathis is a good starting OG. PFF would have you believe he’s some kind of combination of Larry Allen, Randall McDaniel and Will Shields. As much as I like Mathis, he won’t be heading to Canton after his career. I don’t blame him for wanting the money. Football players have short careers. You have to strike while the iron is hot. The problem is that Mathis will turn 34 in November.

Aging OGs generally don’t get new deals from their current teams. And they rarely are in high demand by other teams. You can bet plenty of teams would like to have Mathis. The question is how many would want him at his current price of $5.5M, let alone at a higher price (which is what Mathis wants).

Initially I thought the Eagles would let Mathis and his agent look for another situation, with the understanding that if another team didn’t step up, he would remain an Eagle. Now I’m not so sure what is going on.

Chester is an athletic RG. The Eagles could have signed him and plugged him in at RG, letting Allen Barbre then take over at LG.

I don’t think Chester is the kid of player you sign for depth. He is 32. This is a guy you sign to be a starting OG for you.

I guess it is possible the Eagles could have signed him with the thought of he and Mathis being the starters, keeping Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin as the backups at OG/OT. I’m just not so sure what’s going on with Mathis and the Eagles. I am starting to think Mathis has played his last game as an Eagle. That’s just the vibe I’m getting. I don’t know anything for a fact.

I like Mathis as a player and as a person. I’d love to see things work out where he could finish his career as an Eagle. It doesn’t feel like that is going to happen.

There is no question that cutting or trading Mathis would weaken the OL. Obviously the coaching staff doesn’t see that as being as big a drop-off as you and I might. Maybe they felt Mathis started to show his age last year. We can only guess for now.

This is the time of year when teams are going to let go of veterans. There are going to be some effective starting OL hitting the market. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles pursue them or if Chester was an anomaly, a player the team really liked for some reason.

Stay tuned. This situation bears watching between now and September.

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Learning Day

Posted: May 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 287 Comments »

The Eagles OTAs were open to the media. Chip Kelly held a press conference. That means we got a lot of information today, even though it wasn’t particularly significant. We’re football fans trapped in the wasteland of the spring. That means any scraps of info become key nuggets for us to soak in and obsess over.

Let’s cover some items of interest:

* This morning I wrote about Nolan Carroll being the CB opposite of Byron Maxwell with the starting defense. Chip Kelly singled him out as a player that had a strong offseason and impressed the coaches. Then Kelly mentioned that there were 50 other guys he could have talked about. The fact Carroll was the first name for him to mention has to be somewhat noteworthy.

* Walter Thurmond is now taking reps at Safety.

Kelly said that Thurmond made sense at S because of his ability to play in the slot as well as his intelligence, instincts and the fact he’s always around the ball.

Kelly didn’t mention the fact that the Eagles are so thin at S that they need to be creative to find possible solutions. Chris Maragos was opposite of Malcolm Jenkins today with the 1’s. I love Maragos, but he is meant to play on STs and be used only in emergencies on defense.

Earl Wolff is limited while rehabbing from a knee injury.

Chris Prosinski and Thurmond were the backup Safeties. Jaylen Watkins and Jerome Couplin were the #3 group.

* Allen Barbre is playing LG with Evan Mathis skipping the voluntary OTAs. Matt Tobin is one of several guys playing RG. This is interesting to me.

Mathis is expected to be the LG this year. Barbre would then play RG. Why not let him spend as much time as possible there this summer so he can get as comfortable as possible? Every rep is a chance to work on footwork, technique and things like that.

Does this mean Tobin could win the RG job?

Or does this mean something could happen with Mathis and the starting OGs could be Barbre and Tobin? You don’t want to read too much into something like this, but it does seem interesting to me.

* Tim Tebow is playing QB. He won’t be a FB/H-back/TE or anything else. And G.J. Kinne is working at WR.

PE.com has lots of depth chart info.

* * * * *

The Kelly PC is entertaining. He offered good nuggets on a variety of subjects. The hottest topic is Shady McCoy’s dig at Kelly for getting rid of black players (stars). Kelly said he called McCoy twice, but neither call was accepted. Kelly also said he got word to Shady’s agent to let him know Kelly would like to talk to his former star RB. Nothing has happened so far.

Kelly said race plays no part in his decisions. Jay Glazer offered his take on Twitter.

Really disappointing that Shady made those comments.

* * * * *

I have no idea how Sam Bradford will play this year, but listen to his chat with the media and you can see why Kelly loves him. Bradford mentioned a couple of times having to ignore outside things that were being said and written about him. He stays focused on what he can control.

Bradford is coming along well in his rehab from the torn ACL and seems genuinely excited about his chance to play in a dynamic offense. The Rams offense was…well…offensive. But not in the good way.

* * * * *

Jimmy Bama wrote about the practice.  A couple of nuggets that stood out.

• The limited participants in practice were Sam Bradford, Earl Wolff, and Marcus Smith. Bradford jogged around a little and made some easy passes, but did not play in team drills. From the little I saw of him, his quick release is obvious. Earl Wolff remains a constant on the “limited participation” front. I don’t want to write him off in May, but the coaching staff can’t be thrilled that he’s seemingly always missing practices and games.

• Tim Tebow was picked off on a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage by rookie DE Brian Mihalik. Tebow’s windup takes a lifetime. It’s fairly easy for defensive linemen to get their hands up to bat passes when it takes the QB eight seconds (estimated) to get the ball out of his hands.

Remember that last year Mark Sanchez looked awful in the spring, but was much better by the summer and then posted solid numbers during the season.

* * * * *

Jeff McLane offered his own practice thoughts. This was interesting.

— With so many new inside linebackers – the Eagles also signed Brad Jones and drafted Jordan Hicks – it looked like Emmanuel Acho had made a full-time move to outside linebacker. The outside linebacker group was down a man with Marcus Smith sidelined with a “leg pull,” per Kelly.

With Marcus Smith out today, Acho might have moved simply because they needed someone to eat reps. Or maybe the new depth at ILB has forced Acho to move outside. He had 8 sacks in college, which is a solid total for a player who wasn’t a primary pass rusher.

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Nolan Carroll

Posted: May 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 250 Comments »

We know Byron Maxwell is one starting CB. The other? The Eagles have a few months to figure that out. It will be an open competition between now and mid-August. For now, Nolan Carroll is on the field as the other starter.

Why Carroll?

He has the best combination of size, experience in the scheme, ability and versatility. Walter Thurmond is new to the team. EJ Biggers might be a CB or he might be a S. And he’s also new. Eric Rowe is a rookie. And poor old Brandon Boykin is thought of as a slot guy. He’ll get some chances outside, but would need to be spectacular to convince the coaches to go with him.

The fact Carroll is out there now doesn’t mean anything significant. He’s leading the Indy 500 after half a lap. That’s it. Carroll can keep the job if he plays well, but being on the field with the 1’s isn’t a big deal to Chip Kelly. He tells us that every summer when we obsess on the depth chart. As he points out, the players set the depth chart with how they play. If Carroll is “starting” for the first week of Training Camp, that will be a more important sign.

Dave Spadaro provided the nugget that Carroll is out there and wrote about him.

The overhaul is complete. The aim is to play press coverage, to challenge wide receivers. And Carroll is competing like crazy to stand out.

“For me, honestly, it’s just work. I’ve come in with the mindset that I’ve got to work harder than everyone else.” he said. “It was the same situation for me in my last year in Miami (2013 season). They added a couple of guys in free agency and they drafted a couple of guys. I have the same mindset now that I had then. I can’t control anything but what I do.

“Cory is asking more from us. He is asking us to compete against ourselves every day, to be better every day. It’s not about competing against the other guys at our position. It’s about competing to be better as a player every day. He’s harping on that. He’s demanding that we give more than we gave the day before. He’s teaching us every single day. He isn’t taking a day off from teaching and from helping us improve so he expects effort from us, too. We have a growth mindset. We don’t have a fixed mindset. We never feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got it. I don’t have to worry about it.’ We’re pushing every day.

“For him, it’s been about, ‘Everybody is talking about us being the weakest link in the defense. Let’s change that from the back end.’ For the cornerbacks, we want to be able to challenge the receivers and get up in their faces and stop giving up those explosive plays. We’re constantly thinking about not giving up explosive plays. We’re not relaxing out there at all. We’re out there stripping the football, trying to make plays. We’re establishing that mindset now that will carry over into the preseason and into the regular season.”

Carroll could benefit from the presence of Undlin. You have a veteran player and a veteran coach. They could bond well and quality coaching could bring out the best in Carroll.

* * * * *

Greg Bedard wrote a piece on Chip Kelly for SI.

If you aren’t an Eagles fan, this might be highly informative. But the Eagles are the most heavily covered NFL team. There are a ton of beat writers and the national guys cover the team aggressively as well. There is little in this piece that is new. The talk about how Kelly and Bill O’Brien became friends is the best takeaway for me.

This was also of interest in regard to QB.

Kelly also has predecessors when it comes to making controversial roster moves. In 1981, Walsh knew that he could probably win with quarterback Steve DeBerg, an accurate passer. But he traded DeBerg for a fourth-round pick and went with his gut at QB, giving the job to a former third-rounder who had a 2–6 record as a starter: Joe Montana. Eight years later, when Johnson was just five games into his first season in the pros, he traded away the league’s reigning No. 2 rusher, Herschel Walker. And in 2001, Belichick stuck with a skinny sixth-round backup QB named Tom Brady even after starter Drew Bledsoe recovered from an injury. Bledsoe was traded the next season.

“Jimmy realized that you could replace a Herschel with a near-Herschel and still be pretty good,” former Cowboys personnel exec Gil Brandt says of the old Dallas coach. “Chip realizes the same thing, and he has an eye on the cap. This guy didn’t come in on the turnip truck. He was talking to NFL people, picking their brains, getting ready for this for a long time. He’s a lot more tuned in to personnel than people know.”

That doesn’t make the Sam Bradford move any less risky, but it does offer some perspective.

* * * * *

Kelly will be speaking today at noon. I’m sure he’ll have one or two interesting things to say.

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Agholor Off To A Good Start

Posted: May 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 211 Comments »

Nelson Agholor has only been an Eagle for about a month, but he is already impressing his teammates. Jordan Matthews had some good things to say about him yesterday.

“The one that’s going to obviously jump out is Nelson,” Matthews said. “You hear a lot of great things, but then when you actually get him out there on the field you see what type of guy he is [and] you’re like, ‘OK good kid, he gets it.’

“Instead of taking the regular rookie shuttle he takes a taxi to get here early to the facility. That’s a kid that gets it. That’s not a façade. That’s somebody who’s saying, ‘OK, I want to go here, get in the building early, I need to learn what I want to do and I want to go out and compete.”

Matthews, picked 42nd overall by the Eagles last year, leaned on veteran wideout Jeremy Maclin while he acclimated to his new surroundings. Now he’s become the same kind of resource for Agholor, who hasn’t hesitated to ask questions.

“He’s been really aggressive with his studying,” Matthews said. “He’s always hitting me up. If he needs like signals, if he needs information, he calls me whenever and we’re able to talk over it. We haven’t even gotten into how he is on the field. The kid is explosive. I’m not going to ruin it for everybody, I just want everybody to see how talented he is.”

We don’t know if Agholor is going to pan out (as we expect him to), but we do know the young man is doing all the right things to make himself successful. He’s showing the right attitude and doing things he can control in the right way. That doesn’t guarantee success, but it puts you in position to be successful.

I can’t wait to see him running around in an Eagles jersey and flashing the speed and skills that got him picked in the 1st round.

* * * * *

Speaking of former USC receivers…Marqise Lee is having a tough time due to knee issues. He played in 13 games last year (8 starts) and was 37-422-1. The knee was a problem last year and is keeping him out of OTAs for now. Lee is the player that a lot of people thought the Eagles would draft in the 1st round last year. Luckily, Chip Kelly was focused on Jordan Matthews as his receiver of choice.

No reports on Marcus Smith from Eagles OTAs so far. He has bulked up by about 15 pounds, but we haven’t heard anything beyond that.

* * * * *

Anyone miss this guy?

I miss JJ. And the 4-3 defense.

* * * * *

We talked a bit about Tim Tebow yesterday. Is he really an improved passer?

From what I’ve heard, there is a definite difference. He spent 12 to 15 months working on his motion. In the past, he worked on it for 3 to 4 months at a time. That’s all the down time there was between the end of one season and the beginning of the next. Since Tebow was out of the league entirely last year, he was able to really work on his motion.

The fact it is better doesn’t mean he’s an NFL quality passer. We have to see how he does throwing the ball as part of a team.

The other issue here is the mental side of things. Can he consistently make quick, smart decisions? In the past, Tebow was like so many other young QBs. He waited until someone was open and then got him the ball. Good QBs anticipate. They see things happen before they actually do. Most young QBs react. They wait for someone to be open. That’s fine in college, but isn’t going to work on a regular basis in the NFL.

I am genuinely curious to see how Tebow performs.

* * * * *

WR John Harris is my favorite UDFA. I think he’s got a legit shot to win a roster spot. BGN covered him today and talked about how good a blocker he is.

That is one of his strengths and it does give him extra value to a team like the Eagles that is committed to running and values WRs who can really run block.

Here is the post I did on him a few weeks back. Fun player to watch.

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